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Politics Never forget

As the 00's comes to a close, thousands of lists are being drawn up for Best ______ of the Decade.  I've posted a posted a few of them over the last week or two; a lot of good entertainment-focused ones from the AV Club.  A decade is a long time, and it's funny how different media have different lifecycles in our memory.  Quick jogger: some of the top grossing movies of 2000 were Cast Away, Gladiator, and X-Men - all relatively still alive and fresh in our collective consciousness, I think.  But in music, top albums were N' Sync, the Santana collaboration album, and the original Brittany Spears album.  Maybe it's just me, but those feel way, way older in my mind (just in terms of creation, not relevancy).

As I perused these relatively meaningless lists and debated them with friends, I started getting reflective.  I thought about my life over the last ten years.  And I thought about the world.  One night, I turned on the TV and was thrown immediately into the History Channel's "102 Minutes That Changed America", a documentary of September 11th that uses footage from civilians' cameras, stitching the minutes together to reshow what happened from the vantage point of those who lived it firsthand.  I picked up about 10 minutes in, and I couldn't turn it off.  Remembering 9/11 is one thing.  Reliving it, even through television, is something altogether different.

And that was when I remembered that, in the Big Picture, this past decade sucked.  It sucked hard.

Personally, I can't complain about the 2000's.  I graduated college, got a job in the post-dotcom bubble / post-9/11 economy of 2002, earned my Masters, lived in Europe, met the love of my life, and (seem to be) making it in NY.  And I took some lumps; I lost two grandparents, my parents got divorced, I went through some mild but nerve-wracking health issues, and went through a couple of rough break-ups.  All in all, what you'd expect of an upper-middle class white male in his 20's.

I can't, and won't, complain.  I've got most of Maslow's layers accounted for; I'm privileged enough to have time, the desire, and the wherewithal to think about the Big Picture.  So while I've still got lumps to take yet before I make 100, I'll never take what I've got for granted.

So to recap the decade I remember, the one I urge you all to remember as well, was this one:

  • 2000 kicked off with a stolen election.  About 6 months into service, on June 30, 2001, President Bush and his dangerously incompetent administration receive an urgent warning that bin Laden was a serious threat to the safety of the United States, and they thoroughly ignored it.
  • In August, they received a full report - "Bin Ladin Determined To Strike in US" - outlining months of 'blinking red' warnings that the US was under an immediate threat.  The administration, the FBI, and the CIA shuffle slightly, but no substantial effort by the government to counter the threat is made.
  • On September 11th, 2001, the United States is attacked by terrorists, who destroy the World Trade Center, part of the Pentagon, and attempt to destroy (presumably) the White House.  2,974 people are killed.*
  • In October 2001, the Bush administration starts a war in Afghanistan.
  • Within a few months, the American people begin losing numerous personal freedoms, some constitutional, in a veiled national security effort.
  • In December 2001, the Bush administration fails to kill Osama Bin Laden, who was "within our grasp".
  • In 2003, the US enters into a second war in Iraq based on "faulty intelligence" and scads of misguided, irrelevant justifications.
  • In 2004, President Bush wins a second term through continued lies and fear-mongering.
  • On August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina hits Louisiana while President Bush celebrates John McCain's birthday.  He goes to bed that night ignoring the governor's request for aid.  The next day, Bush continues to vacation, ignoring Louisiana and instead plays guitar with a country singer.  Hurricane Katrina kills at least 1,836 people.

And this is (mostly) just within our borders.  For the rest of his presidency, Bush continued to erode American freedoms and the essential American foundation of the separation between church and state, while instead advancing precursors to the economic crisis, illegal global totalitarianism, irreversible global ecological destruction, and continued politics of fear and destruction.  His now-defunct administration can try to pass the buck and pretend as though he somehow actually prevented attacks on domestic soil.  But in every sense of the definition of the word, George W. Bush himself was, and is still, a terrorist.  (If it helps the medicine go down, remember that reality has a well-known liberal bias.)


On January 20, 2009, the world watched the inauguration of Barack Obama with a great sense of hope, the cornerstone theme of his campaign, and a natural evolution from our eight previous years of fear, desperation, and sadness.  Election night was indeed a joyous occasion which I will never forget.  But the truth about Inauguration Day 2009 is that the only real happiness I experienced was watching the all-too-brief footage of Bush and Cheney (very slowly) walking to the chopper, to finally leave the White House.

It did feel really good to watch them go, but this reality saddens me: that disdain for Bush & Co. was so strong that it almost completely engulfed what should have been a purely positive occasion.  The day was many things: amazing, historical, inspirational.  But for me at least, it was less about the beginning of a new chapter, and more a reflection of a closing chapter to a terrible period in American history, one that spanned the first decade of the 21st century and unfortunately defined a generation.

There are a lot of people who believe we should not look back, that inquiries and analysis are a waste of time and money, and that we should only move forward.  (I won't pick apart that ridiculous logic now.)  And despite my heavy negativity of the 00's, I am looking ahead positively about the future.  While President Obama has a long way to go yet, he's definitely spent the first 11 months in office on the right paths.

But it's our responsibility to look back at the last 10 years not just in terms of successes, and certainly not solely in terms of pop culture memories.  We must reflect on our failings as a country and as a species, as to avoid the same catastrophic mistakes in the future.  Much good has followed that period of darkness, of fear, ignorance, and hate. But we owe it to ourselves to acknowledge the darkness existed, and to change our ways for the future.

George Santayana said, "those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it". So never forget 9/11.  But never forget the 2000's.


* The full 9/11 Commission report is available online at in parts or as a full PDF [7.4 MB].  I'd also highly recommend the graphic novel adaptation of the report. The raw report is very long and complicated; I will attest that its novelization is incredibly helpful,  and helps to illustrate exactly what happened (literally and figuratively).
The morning after the election, as I ran through my morning routine, I thought I might pick up a copy of The New York Times on the way to the office, for posterity's sake.  After a week's worth of reporting, it's well known that newspapers were incredibly hard to find on the morning of November 5, 2008.  But over the course of that morning - until I could get online, that is - what I was experiencing was very singular and personal.

It wasn't until I was settled in the warm cozies of the Undercurrent office, sucking in news like a Dyson, did I realize what a shared experience even the aftermath of the election was having on us.  Which sounds obvious, since we had just elected a new leader of the free world.  But I'm thinking beyond just an insignificant morning whim.  The inability to find a copy of a newspaper is an ironic microcosm of the print industry itself.  In fact, the sweeping morning paper sales wasn't just a byproduct of the election: the election itself may have been the (second of two) tipping points that accelerates the end of the printed newspaper.

I point to two significant indicators: President-elect Obama's transition towards more transparency, openly communicative government, and the Christian Science Monitor shifting to a web-based strategy, the first newspaper to do so.  CSM transitioning online can be valued in and of itself, but when we look back, it will be recognized for it's role in the larger scheme.  And President-elect Obama's continued embrace of the internet for open information flow - and hopefully more community development online, like - means more people going first to the web for their information, since they can get it faster and with less filter.  If CSM was the snowball that kicked off the larger avalanche, then Obama's use of all things digital are the rocks and trees and slopes that shape the coming landscape.

Printed newspapers are fast becoming collectors items that stamp and date in history, and that's all.  The majority of those November 5, 2008 issues will end up in a mylar bag in a basement, like a first edition comic book.  It's hard to imagine institutions like the CS Monitor, the NY Times, and the Washington Post becoming so radically altered that they no longer physically exist, nevermind fathoming the entire newspaper print industry actually disappearing.  But the limbs - all of them - very well may need to be amputated if the head (reporting) is ever going to survive.

Politics Remember these guys?

Back in 1999, a bunch of fellow Ithaca College freshman went over to one of Cornell's theaters to check out a movie in which one of the guys had a bit part.  (It turns out he was on screen for all of 0.8 seconds.)  The movie was called Puddle Cruiser, the first movie by the Broken Lizard guys, who you might (or might not) know from Super Troopers and Beerfest.

All of the guys in the troupe were there in person for the screening; they and the movie were great.  But the best part of the experience was the short film preceding Puddle Cruiser, entitled True, which involved a bunch of guys on phones, saying "Wassup", which escalates into an excellently edited cacophony of shouts, extended tongues, and bugged-out eyes.  The film had everyone in the theater screaming in laughter.

And yes, the only reason I've preceded the main point of this post with that story is to gloat about having seen a bit of recent pop culture phenomenon earlier than 99.999% of the population.  Firsties, indeed.

By the end of that year, those guys remade their concept as a spot for Budweiser which aired during football games, and solidified their art into a historic serialized advertising campaign, which neither deviated from their original concept or pandered to anyone, in my opinion.  (Remember the subsequent, "What are you doing??", etc.?)

Eight years later, the same guys have an absolutely brilliantly biting follow-up to their original film, called - on YouTube, anyway - "Wassup 2008", which is essentially an ad for Obama-Biden '08.  If only you share one video this weekend, make it this one.

Politics You have no excuses

I put off posting about the 2008 elections long enough to really let the issue bake a nice golden brown.  But the timer has buzzed, the oven turned off, the windowsill has cooled it, and it's time to take a bite.

You have absolutely no reason or excuse to remain undecided.

This is without a doubt the most important election in decades.

  • The economy is collapsing as fast as our aged infrastructure.
  • The current national energy policy puts the globe at greater environmental risk.
  • The war in Iraq is essentially unwinnable and the war on terrorism is being fought the wrong way.
  • America's foreign policy is offensive to the rest of the world, yet we're not prepared to be defensive, nationally.
  • Our only education policy is broken and for poverty there is none.
  • Health care and social security are unfunny jokes.
Even if you don't think you care about these issues, you do.  Everyone needs health care and education.  Every American should be secure, militarily and financially.  Every person should breathe clean air and drink clean water.  Practically every core principle of living healthy, productive lives in America is at risk right now, and it's every single American's civic duty to take a stand and vote.

I don't particularly care for this quote, but Martin Luther King, Jr. once said:

"The hottest place in Hell is reserved for those who remain neutral in times of great moral conflict."
Never has this been more true.

You vote on the issues.

Sure, it's fun to poke fun at the other candidate for his or her flaws.  And while it's shallow and completely irrelevant, privately making small, non-hateful jabs at appearances is occasionally good for a laugh.  But if you take any trite peripheral factors into consideration when you vote, you absolutely should not be voting.

Yes, it's everyone's Constitutional right to vote however they want.  But the foundation of the Constitution assumes some degree of intellect, logic, forthrightness, and objectivity when it comes to voting in a democracy.  So logically, if you're unable to handle those minimal requirements, then you should not be participating in either the American democratic process or America, period.

Here's a little guide.  If you agree with any of the following statements, please pack up and be out of the country before November rolls around:

  • If a candidate is not attractive, I can't vote for them.
  • Unfounded rumors about candidates are very important.
  • Race, gender, and religious beliefs are important factors.
  • I choose my elected officials based solely on my own immediate personal interests.
So civic duty calls on everyone to vote, and everyone should vote in an educated and clear manner; thus, on the issues.  Find out what John McCain's plan is to save the economy, and think about whether you believe it is sound.  Read up on Barack Obama's energy policy, and think about whether you agree with it.

And if you are the truly lazy, here, let me help you.

You should vote for Barack Obama.

Obama's economic plan is sound and best for the majority of the country.  McCain's is risky and best for corporations, banks, and the rich only.  Look:

taxplans.gifObama's energy policy not only puts America on track for energy independence and environmental stability, but it helps national security and the economy.  McCain's puts at risk the country's security through foreign dependence, your financial security through ever-climbing prices with ever-diminishing oil sources, and the health of the planet, which in turn threatens the health and future of generations to come.

Obama has plans and policies that create, improve, and grow our country.  In the rare instances in which McCain isn't being utterly vague on an issue, he's making dangerous policies and assertions.

John McCain is using lies and hate to try to steer you away from the issues on which he has no good answers.

Barack Obama not only has answers for the next four years, but his policies would put America in the right direction for decades to come.

If you are undecided, read, think, and decide today.


A few days ago, during a quick check-in on Old Media's (read: television's "news" networks) coverage of the primaries, I heard part of a speech given by John McCain right after a victory.  As he spoke, I caught a glimpse of his campaign logo emblazoned on the podium, and instantly I had a psychological reaction.  I actually lol'ed a little, which I'll get to in a moment.

So I thought I would mark paper skies' foray into the 2008 political arena with an analysis of some presidential hopefuls' campaign logos.  Or, to translate into more traditional adver-speak, their brand.  As of this posting, Kucinich, Edwards, Romney, Paul, Thompson and many others have made this task a lot easier by quitting - true Americans, all - and leaving a nice tangible group of four.

Politik Analyzer 5000, go!

John McCain (R) -

mccain_logo.jpgThe logo that started it all, the muse de post.  This Republican logo so quickly invoked an image of a dark conglomerate of military outfits, trillion-dollar contractors, industrial airliners, and high-volume food distributor.  (That's why I first lol'ed at the TV.)  To that point, his designer succeeded, especially regarding his heavy lean on the Army tinge / his military service; thus, his brand's image.  But, as far as I'm concerned, it fails because of the darkness.  It's not just dark in color, but it's dark in spirit; I feel whoever this McCain fellow is means serious, angry business that may or may not involve the north star.  And that's just not my bag, especially not in this election season.

Grade: F

Mike Huckabee (R) -

huckabee_logo.jpg Sassy and sharp!  Very clean.  The stars work, except they remind me of 1970's glam rock, which is super-weird for a Republican candidate.  I don't know if he hates gays, per se, but he definitely only wants PB&J's on white bread.  Also, the logo is missing the word "for".  This is because either a) someone plum forgot (unlikely), or b) his camp is not hoping for the presidency but rather declaring it (likely).  Ballsy 'bee!

Grade: B

Hillary Clinton (D) -

Did you see that?  A tumbleweed just rolled by the blog.  Weird.  Probably because this is the most generic, ho-hum political logo possible.  This is the lawn sign you see for your local VFW treasurer candidate on your way to the Dairy Queen.  Red, white, and blue - and in flag form, you ignorant voter! (*head-beating noise*).  And the 'for President' seems tacked on, almost as an afterthought.  It reads like a campaign manager just accosted you in a parking lot, whispering, "Psst!  Hey!  She's running ...for President!", hands you a campaign button, and then runs away.  That, or to save money, they can more quickly crop it out and replace it with "for Senator" if necessary.  The whole thing reeks of unexciting blandness, and worse yet, a feeling of over-testing and broadly sought approval, just like the candidate.  Case in point: the graphic above, pulled directly from her site's homepage, was compressed enough to be noticeably full of artifacts, which leads me to believe the camp is also pandering to dial-up users.

Grade: D

Barack Obama (D) -

OMG, yes.  Beautiful iconography, well-utilized typography, simple, classic, and distinct color use.  This logo jives so well with the rest of his campaign.  The icon shows a sun rising, while supplemental signs read "change" and "hope".  Integrated political marketing at it's finest.  (Though this doesn't weigh into the grading, the campaign site for Obama is absolutely gorgeous, rivaling any top-dollar private sector website.)  Obama has been breaking all kinds of campaign records which have been closely tied to his impact and presence online.  It's clear that there is someone or ones in his camp that fully understand modern online, branding, and design principles.  And as a 20-something consumption whore of said principles, it translates to me, a voter, that he as a candidate is open and in-tune.

Grade: A

In terms of voting and caring about candidates, I've had my eyes on certain someones for some time.  Now, I'm not so stupid that I would actually vote for someone based on their logo.  But I am dumb enough to say that I would.  So Mr. Obama, consider yourself the front-runner for the vote.

obama_poster.jpgObama now also owns the title for Candidate Most Residents of 123 Awesome Street Would Like to Have Sex With, in multiple gender categories.


Eric Tabone is Operations Manager at the digital strategy consultancy, Undercurrent. He lives in Brooklyn, New York with his awesome wife and two kick-ass cats.

All original opinions and commentary throughout this blog (comments excluded) are Eric's alone, and do not necessarily represent Undercurrent in any way.


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